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Eng vs SA, T20Is 2022: Lackadaisical Openers, Expensive Spinners concern for both teams

South Africa tour of England 2022: South Africa to play three T20I against England starting from July 27, 2022.

Eng vs SA, ODI Series 2022: Jos Buttler, Keshav Maharaj with the trophy as ODI series draw at 1-1 (Source: ©Getty Images)
South Africa to play three T20I against England starting from July 27 (Source: ©Getty Images)

As England and South Africa move ahead towards the fast-moving T20 format after a drawn 1-1 ODI series, there are lots of gaps both teams would like to fill before the start of the T20I series. Because this year is a T20 World Cup year, all of the teams will be experimenting with different permutations and combinations in order to be ready for the big tournament down under. This would also be the first T20 World Cup that would be played in Australia, so the touring teams would love to get the right balance in their squad leading into the tournament.

Ironically, both England and South Africa last played a T20I series against India and neither of them were able to clinch the series. While the rain gods in Bengaluru helped South Africa to a 2-2 tie against the Men in Blue, England were defeated 1-2 in their own backyard by Rohit Sharma and his men.

Head-to-head, England and South Africa have encountered each other 22 times, out of which the lions have gotten the better of the Proteas on 11 occasions, whereas South Africa have won 10 and one match resulted in a no result. The seven T20 matches played between South Africa and England in England have always been neck to neck, with both of them tied at three wins apiece and one washed out.

Opening Vows for England and South Africa

Both teams have struggled to lay down a solid opening foundation for the middle-order and finishers to capitalise on. England’s opening partnerships in the last three games were 1, 0 and 31, whereas South Africa's highest has been 24 runs with opening partnerships of 5, 23 and 24 in their last three games. England’s opening partnership still looks settled with Jason Roy and Jos Buttler and just needs one good innings from either of them to get back to form as both have struggled of late in T20s. The problem is deeper for South Africa, with Temba Bavuma being a slow starter.

South Africa have themselves identified the elephant in the room and in an attempt to find a fix for the dry run from the openers, they have added hard-hitter Rilee Rossouw, who averages 39.57 as an opener and has scored 277 runs in the seven innings in that position, with a hundred under his belt. The 32-year-old last played for the Proteas in 2016, having left South African cricket in 2017 after signing a three-year Kolpak deal with Hampshire that made him ineligible for national selection. Rossouw came back to light when he scored 93 off 36 balls in the T20 Blast 2022 quarter final for Somerset against Derbyshire, where he hit 34 runs in spinner Mattie McKiernan's 15th over, which featured five sixes and one four. He was also the leading run-scorer in the T20 Blast tournament, with 278 runs for Somerset at a staggering average of 92.66 and a fiery strike rate of 191.72.

England vs South Africa, T20I Series 2022_ Rassie van der dussen holds the key for South Africa in middle order along with David Miller _ Walking Wicket (Source_ ©Getty Images)
van der dussen holds the key for South Africa in middle order along with Miller (Source: ©Getty Images)

Middle and lower orders are vulnerable

England's middle and lower order batters, including Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran and Chris Jordan, have scored 48.5 per cent of the total runs (456) scored by England in their last three T20I matches. With no Ben Stokes in the side, England might try Harry Brook or Phil Salt in the middle order.

South Africans have struggled big time due to poor performances by middle-order batters in their last three completed T20I games. Around 31.3 per cent of the total runs (352) scored by the Proteas have come from the blade of Heinrich Klaasen (110 runs). Along with Klaseen, only David Miller and Rassie van der Dussen have shown some fight, whereas the rest of the batters have just fallen like a pack of cards. South Africa would rely on the trio of Miller, van der Dussen and Klassen, with crucial contributions from pinch-hitters Dwaine Pretorious and Andile Phehlukwayo, if necessary.

Struggles of the spin bowling engine

South Africa would rather consider themselves fortunate to have conceded 489 runs in 60 overs at an economy rate of 8.34 against India on slow turning pitches in India, but the absence of Indian stalwarts from the T20I series cannot be ruled out as a possible reason for that. Pretorius was clearly South Africa's stand out bowler, accounting for 24 per cent (4 out of 17) of Proteas' total wickets. The big disappointment for South Africa was the third-ranked T20I bowler in the world, the chinaman spinner, Tabraiz Shamzi, who managed to pick up just one wicket in three matches while going at 9.5 runs per over.

England, on the other hand, have struggled in the spin department in the absence of world number 4 T20I bowler Adil Rashid, who was out of the India series. Rashid will be making a comeback in T20I cricket for England in the South Africa series. England invested in young leg spinner, Matt Parkinson. However, the leggie was clobbered all over the park by India’s batters, as he conceded 65 runs in six overs, picking just a single wicket. England’s part-timer, Liam Livingstone was also taken to the cleaners, leaking runs at 14.83 in five overs. Moeen Ali was the only light in the dark for England with three wickets in three games, but even he leaked runs at the pace of nine with an economy rate of 13.33.

Both the teams have reinforced their bowling departments, with South Africa adding speedster Gerald Coetzee. Gerald has played only eight T20 matches in his career, picking up nine wickets at an economy rate of 7.68. His best figures in the game's shortest format are 2/19. On the other hand, England have found gems in the form of Richard Gleeson and Reece Topley in the series against India. Both England and South Africa will be hoping for their spinners to pick wickets in the middle overs, as that has been an obvious gap in their bowling armory.

What happens on the field on July 27, 2022 at the County Ground in Bristol, where the first T20I kicks off would be interesting to see with both teams aiming for a balanced squad for the T20 World cup down under later this year.


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